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Chronic Absenteeism in Hawaii Public Schools

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Dave Moyer

on 17 June 2015

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Transcript of Chronic Absenteeism in Hawaii Public Schools

What is the extent of the problem in Hawaii?
Are there important patterns in the data?
Chronic absenteeism is not evenly distributed among the students in the state. We track some of the patterns here.
How Does it Affect Hawaii's Students?
Chronically absent students perform worse than non-chronically absent students on almost any measure we track. This is even true when you account for factors like poverty, previous performance, and disadvantage.
Chronic Absenteeism in Hawaii Public Schools
What is Chronic Absenteeism?
Chronic absenteeism is a measure of attendance that focuses on students who have missed large chunks of school.

Students are labeled chronically absent in Hawaii if they miss 15 or more days of school for any reason.

What affects attendance?
Chronic Absenteeism vs. Average Daily Attendance
What if the absences were excused?
These two measures of attendance are related, but not identical. Measuring average daily attendance without chronic absenteeism can obscure important information.
Large variation in chronic absenteeism exists even in schools with 95% daily attendance rates
Historically, Hawaii, along with most other states and districts has tracked truancy, which only includes unexcused absences.

Unfortunately, the Department has learned that students who miss significant amounts of school for valid reasons are equally likely to fall behind academically as those who do not have a valid reason for missing school.

students in Hawaii Public Schools were chronically absent in each of the last four years
1 in 5
Our higher needs students are disproportionately likely to be chronically absent
Chronic Absenteeism Persists
Test Scores
Students who are chronically absent one year are substantially more likely to be chronically absent the next
Past chronic absenteeism, even from several years ago is one of the best predictors of chronic absenteeism today.

The chart below compares students with similar disadvantages and similar test scores, and still shows that being chronically absent in the past is a significant predictor of whether a student will be chronically absent this year.
Increased Likelihood of Being Chronically Absent Based on Chronic Absenteeism Status in Previous Years
Course marks capture our secondary students' progress in their courses and are good predictors of performance during and after high school. Unfortunately, chronic absenteeism has a strong negative impact on a student's gpa.
There is a significant negative relationship between chronic absenteeism and course marks. The chart below shows the relationship and controls for previous grades, disadvantage and race/ethnicity.

The interpretation below is that being chronically absent is associated with a half-point decline in one's GPA, even when comparing students with similar prior GPA's.
Effect of Chronic Absenteeism on Non-Cumulative Annual GPA
Annual Non-Cumulative GPA by Chronically Absent Status
Annual GPA
Unsurprisingly, chronically absent students also tend to do worse on standardized tests than their counterparts who weren't chronically absent.

While we often focus on proficiency in math and reading as our measure of student performance, the new metric of student growth percentiles allows us to track the "pace" of student learning. This measure particularly shows chronic absenteeism's impact on achievement.
Chronically absent students are less likely to do well on both math and reading exams, even controlling for prior achievement, disadvantage and demographic factors.

Chronically absent students struggle most on math, and experience slower gains than their peers who attend school regularly.
These trends are true at the school level as well. Lower average chronic absenteeism rates are associated with better performance in the aggregate
This grade-level chronic absenteeism trend plays out throughout the state in almost all schools.
Some of our best and worst attended schools seem to be clustered together.
Military-Impacted Schools
The color change is centered on the average state chronic absenteeism rate of 21%.

Blue schools are below the average and red are above
One concern is that children of military families may miss school time due to their parents' service and become chronically absent.

While we are not consistently able to track which students are military-impacted, when we examine military-impacted schools, the results are encouraging.
Student attendance is driven by an enormous number of factors. Some of these are in our control, some we can indirectly affect, and others are very difficult for us to control.
Three Broad Categories
Cannot Attend
Will Not Attend
Do Not Attend
Students have medical emergencies or illness
Family responsibilities and the resulting need to work
Are involved in the juvenile justice system or have been suspended from school

These issues are difficult to directly affect--and often require larger public policy interventions
1 in 4
1 in 3
students from
economically disadvantaged
families were chronically absent over the last five years
students with disabilities
were chronically absent over the last five years
Our military-impacted schools actually have a lower rate of chronic absenteeism on average than our non-military impacted schools.
Race and Ethnicity
Students feel unsafe or unwelcome at school
Bullying, harrassment or embarassment are problems

We can address some of these issues in schools to improve climate.
Students or their parents don't see the value in being in school
They prefer to do other things, or aren't held accountable for missing school

We can address many of these issues through engagement strategies public awareness campaigns
Students from different racial and ethnic groups miss school at very different rates. The chart below plots the chronic absenteeism rate for different groups, and the thickness of the line shows the relative size of the group.
While there has been some movement in these values over time, absenteeism among ethnic groups has been fairly stable for the last five years.
Some lessons from Daily Absence Data
This is an area where we are in the process of doing more local research. Other states and districts in the nation have established links between health risks and chronic absenteeism. The connection almost certainly exists here, but we are working to better identify the links.
Nationally Established Health Risk Factors for Chronic Absenteeism
Lack of insurance
Leads to less preventative care and higher likelihood of serious illness
Certainly a problem in Hawaii due to vog
Acute flare-ups, sleep deprivation and hospitalization contribute to absences
Food Insecurity and Nutrition
Poor nutrition leads to other poor health outcomes, affecting motivation performance and ability to attend school
This is three years of data on the daily number of absences. Note the climb over the course of the year and the big peaks and valleys.
Note the peaks and valleys in total absences: some are suspicious
Dave Moyer

*controlling for prior year GPA, poverty, ell, race
What is Hawaii Doing?
Elevate Chronic Absenteeism as a Metric
Make the Data Easier to Find and Use
Chronic absenteeism rate represents 5% of Elementary schools' official accountability score
Each school must set a target for chronic absenteeism in its public academic plan
One of four metrics used in Deputy Superintendent stocktakes with regional Superintendents
Regional Efforts
Community efforts
"Be Pono" in Windward Oahu
"Defend Waianae" in Leeward Oahu
Direct parent engagement
In-school interventions
Build it into existing reporting tools
Daily reporting dashboard has a list of students at risk for chronic absenteeism

Teach leaders why the data are important by explaining the relationships between chronic absenteeism and other measures.
Is it Working?
Empirically: We hope so.
Strategy begins in earnest
Anecdotally: We've witnessed a paradigm shift.
A term that was undefined in Hawaii two years ago is now on the tip of many Principals' tongues. External stakeholders from the military to the health community are latching onto the importance of chronic absenteeism, and are eager for ways to partner with the Department to try and address the issue.
Student Mobility
Changing schools mid-year is associated with a higher likelihood of becoming chronically absent.
Specifically, each school change is associated with an additional 5.5 days of absence, or an additional 12% likelihood of becoming chronically absent, even when controlling for student characteristics.
School Safety and
Absenteeism are Related
School Size
There doesn't seem to be a strong relationship between school size and chronic absenteeism rate
It's difficult to tell which way the causal arrow points, but it's clear that schools with more behavioral incidents also have higher chronic absenteeism rates
Summer 2014
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